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Communism, Federalism, and Ethnic Minorities: Explaining Party Competition Patterns in Eastern Europe

  • Jan Rovny


Scholarship on East European politics expects that party competition in the region is determined by various communist legacies, juxtaposing state-centric authoritarianism to a liberal market economy. Recent empirical evidence, however, uncovers significant variance of party competition patterns across East European countries. To explain this variance, this article argues that an interaction between communist institutional framework and partisan responses to ethnic minorities determines party competition structure in the region. While experience with communist federalism determines partisan affinities with ethnic minorities, tolerance or support for ethnic minorities leads the political actors associated with those minorities to general socially liberal positions. Consequently—and contrary to received knowledge—ethnic politics influence the ideological content of party competition and structure party systems in Eastern Europe.



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* This research has been made possible by the Center for European Studies (CEE) and the Interdisciplinary Research Center for the Evaluation of Public Policies (LIEPP) at Sciences Po, Paris, and the Center for European Research at the University of Gothenburg (CERGU). I would like to thank Liesbet Hooghe, Herbert Kitschelt, Gary Marks, Andrea Spehar, Margit Tavits, Milada Anna Vachudova, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Dimitar Popovski provided invaluable research assistance. A particular thanks for her support and editorial help is reserved for Allison Rovny. All outstanding errors are mine. This research was supported by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), grant number 421-2012-1188

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